America must take a good look in the mirror — and stop the hatred

America must take a good look in the mirror — and stop the hatred
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If there ever was a moment when we Americans needed to take a good look in the mirror, it’s now. When I stare at the face of America, I see a distorted image of a country needlessly plagued by hatred. It is hatred fueled by ignorant prejudices toward people of different races, religions, ethnicities and lifestyles.  

The United States has stood as a beacon of diversity — a democracy that celebrates differences. This is the land where the greatest civil rights movement of all time broke the shackles of old bigotries.

That’s why the recent uptick in religious and race-based hatred is so shocking and disheartening. The climate of hate seems to be worsening, spreading in alarming and tragic ways. Since the 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, more than 2,100 mass shootings have happened in America, and they are tearing us apart. 

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My own cousin, the Rev. Clementa Pickney, was just one of far too many victims. He was gunned down by a troubled young man in his church in South Carolina. After being welcomed into the house of prayer with open arms by those in attendance, the attacker then turned on them out of his hatred toward African Americans. He took lives and shattered families — for what?

The numbers show that hatred is climbing. In 2018, the Southern Poverty Law Center documented 1,020 active hate groups in the United States.  That same year, the Anti-Defamation League recorded a total of 1,879 attacks against Jews and Jewish institutions in America — including the most deadly attack against the Jewish community in American history at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.   

Minority groups from coast to coast, including blacks, Muslims, Jews, non-white immigrants and the LGBTQ community, have come under attack — online, in houses of worship, in workplaces, at schools and playgrounds. 

What is the driving force behind those who choose to hate others so blindly? 

Recently, I interviewed a former neo-Nazi skinhead to explore the root of his hatred. This man had never met a Jewish person but vehemently hated them all. At one point, this man needed a job. Living in Philadelphia, he was given a job by a Jewish business owner who mentored him, showered him with respect and treated him with kindness. That’s when the former neo-Nazi changed for the better. He realized that he had been brainwashed to hate Jews. Ignorance is one of mankind’s worst enemies.

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To explore the source of hatred further, I also sat down with the director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Sara Bloomfield, to talk about how and why anti-Semitism has existed for more than 2,000 years. She likens anti-Semitism to a cancer that finds different places to morph and manifest itself. She spoke of conspiracy theories, myths and misinformation that have been promulgated over the centuries about Jews — especially in the lands where they were persecuted as minorities and labeled as “the other.”

As the director of one of America’s most important institutions, which serves as a living memorial to the Holocaust and a databank of historical evidence of genocide, Bloomfield shares the heavy responsibility of imparting the lessons of the Holocaust to prevent future atrocities. 

This responsibility is one that all Americans should shoulder. It is incumbent upon us not to become numb and complacent to stereotypes and hateful rhetoric, but to stand up against them and to promote diversity and human dignity.

We can, and must, do better. Regardless of our race, gender or ethnicity, we are all made in the image of our Creator. We must learn to live together and love one another. 

We are supposed to be the United States of America. With this title comes our collective obligation to treat one another with civility. Our code of conduct must include respect for differences, perspectives and political views. To succeed as a nation, Americans must find a way to have civil discourse without discord. 

True success will be the day when we can look at one another devoid of hatred and ignorance, and when we can look at ourselves in the mirror and be proud of the diversity we see. 

Armstrong Williams (@ARightSide) is the owner and manager of Howard Stirk Holdings I & II Broadcast Television Stations and the 2016 Multicultural Media Broadcast Owner of the Year. He is the author of “Reawakening Virtues.”